There aren't many games that can enthral a 70-something and her
teenaged grandson in equal measure, but it did. And that's where Soul
Calibur's design really shines. It's very easy to pull off spectacular
moves, partly because every move looks amazing but also because the
controls are intuitive.
Perhaps not as intuitive as Virtua
Fighter 2's three-button system, but move height corresponds to
direction pressed on the d-pad, meaning anyone can grasp the basics. For
the advanced player, however, there's incredible depth here.
for instance, the 8-way run feature, which allows you to attack while
side-stepping your way around the arena with the Dreamcast's analogue
stick. Where 'down' on the D-pad crouches, the same motion in the stick
walks the character towards the screen. Every attack button has a
different move assigned to 8-way run, making the movelist more varied
and deep than anything seen until that point.
Above: Poor, poor Scissors - never stood a chance
there's the horizontal or vertical attack distinction. Vertical attacks
are strong but can be sidestepped with quick reactions. Add in blocks,
parries and throws and you're looking at a system that's arguably more
complex than Virtua Fighter's. Not that my gran would know it as she
hammered the buttons to an impressive (and annoying) victory.
Fishing for compliments
there's another facet to this extraordinary control system – the
fishing rod controller. The rod that came with Sega Bass Fishing could
be used to perform moves in Soul Calibur, in a waggle-fest vastly
pre-dating Nintendo's 'revolutionary' Wii. The official DC mag at the
time even asked a martial arts expert to try it – and he found he could
perform basic kendo moves with the device. Incredible.
"Should we make other games work with this?" "Tennis might be good...
anything else?" "...Nah, good point. Let's leave it."
sprawling story mode that added new rules and challenges to the regular
gameplay (quicksand arenas, rats to bite your ankles, that sort of
thing), the game had some serious meat to it compared to most fighters'
It drip-fed extra content too, from
beautiful artwork to new costumes for the characters, which meant your
hard work was tangibly rewarded. That's on top of the extra skills you
picked up by being forced to complete certain stages by applying
It's back! Sort of...
think it's very telling that when Soul Calibur was ported to XBLA in
HD, its content was stripped-down and its original, antiquated 4:3
aspect ratio was very conspicuously preserved with huge borders at the
sides of the screen.
Above: It's hard to get excited about a game when it's only filling two thirds of the screen
I'm certain SoulCalibur IV would have looked a far less-enticing
prospect if the original game had been ported to HD in widescreen with
online play and its Weapon Master single-player mode intact at a
fraction of the new game's price.
As it is, however, the finest
version of the game is still only available on Dreamcast. I know I said
this wasn't going to be an article about that machine, so I won't bang
on about it. Everyone got excited when Namco announced it would be
releasing another game on Dreamcast, but instead of SoulCalibur II, we
got Mr Driller. Still great, but not exactly what we were hoping for.
Soul Calibur was a one-off on Dreamcast, but it's impact was arguably undiluted as a result. And its light still radiates out from the now increasingly
distant gaming past, aging more gracefully than almost any other 3D
game. Here's hoping SoulCalibur V can shine as brightly. Can it?
As far as I'm concerned, Soul Calibur's awesomely epic-sounding announcer
dude was right: The legend will never die.